Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Declines in technology companies are dragging stocks lower as investors remain increasingly focused on a big tick up in bond yields and what it means for the overall market.

Major indexes pared a good part of their losses by the afternoon. The S&P 500 index was down 0.8% after being down more than 1.3% earlier. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 2% after being down 3.5% earlier.

Shares of big technology companies like Apple, Tesla, Amazon and Microsoft were all down, but not as much as in the early going.

HOME PRICES

U.S. home prices rise 10.1% in December, fastest since 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices surged at the fastest pace in nearly seven years in December, fueled by low mortgage rates and Americans moving from urban apartments to houses in the suburbs.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 10.1% in December from a year earlier. The year-end jump was the biggest since April 2014 and follows a strong 9.2% year-over-year gain in November.

Home prices climbed 14.4% in Phoenix, 13.6% in Seattle and 13% in Seattle. But prices were rising all over. Chicago, which recorded the slowest price gain, saw a 7.7% uptick.

Detroit was not included in the annual figures because of record-keeping delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

Consumer confidence rises for second straight month

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence rose again in February as an improved COVID-19 vaccine push has Americans more optimistic about the future.

The Conference Board reports that its consumer confidence index rose to 91.3, up from 88.9 in January. The present situation index, which is based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, rose to 92 from 85.5 last month. The expectations index — based on consumers’ near-term outlook for income, business, and labor conditions — ticked down slightly.

The consumer confidence index is closely watched by businesses and economists because consumer spending makes up about 70% of U.S. economic activity.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL-CONGRESS

Fed’s Powell: Recovery incomplete, higher inflation unlikely

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is underscoring the U.S. economy’s ongoing weakness, in remarks that suggest that the Fed sees no need to alter its ultra-low interest rate policies anytime soon.

Powell’s comments to the Senate Banking Committee are in contrast to increasing optimism among many analysts that the economy will grow rapidly later this year. That outlook has also raised concerns about a potential surge in inflation and fueled a sharp increase in longer-term interest rates this year.

Most economists say they think the Fed’s continued low rates, further government financial aid and progress in combating the viral pandemic could create a mini-economic boom as soon as this summer.

BRITAIN-VACCINE-PASSPORTS

UK to push at G-7 for global standard on ‘vaccine passports’

LONDON (AP) — Britain says it will use its presidency of the Group of Seven economic powers to push for an internationally recognized system of vaccine passports that could allow world travel to resume.

The government says it will “look to introduce a system to allow vaccinated individuals to travel more freely internationally.” It added it would work with other countries through the World Health Organization, the G-7 and other bodies on “a clear international framework with standards.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged Tuesday that the idea raises “complex” ethical issues because of the need not to discriminate against people who do not have access to vaccines or can’t take them for medical reasons.

BLM-FINANCES

Black Lives Matter opens up about its finances

NEW YORK (AP) — A financial snapshot shared exclusively with The Associated Press shows the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation took in just over $90 million last year.

The foundation widely seen as a steward of the Black Lives Matter movement said individual donations averaged $30.76 in 2020. The foundation committed $21.7 million in grant funding to BLM chapters and other Black-led local organizations, and ended the year with a balance of more than $60 million.

This marks the first time in the movement’s nearly eight-year history that BLM leaders have revealed a detailed look at their finances amid criticism that they have operated with little public transparency.

PUERTO RICO-ECONOMIC CRISIS

Puerto Rico rejects key deal with creditors to reduce debt

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor has announced that a federal control board reached a key deal that would reduce the U.S. territory’s overall debt by nearly 80%, but that his administration is rejecting amid concerns about cuts to the island’s crumbling public pension system.

The impasse between the governor and a board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances threatens to throw into limbo attempts to end a bankruptcy-like process for a government that declared its more than $70 billion public debt load unpayable nearly six years ago.

The board said Tuesday that the deal would free up more than $300 million a year for government services.

SHIPBUILDER-INVESTIGATION

President of US shipbuilder resigns following investigation

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The head of a company that constructs ships for the U.S. Navy on the Gulf Coast has resigned following an investigation by federal and Australian authorities.

A company statement says the chief executive of the Mobile-based Austal USA, Craig Perciavalle, has stepped down and will be replaced by an interim leader. The statement says the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Australian securities regulators have been investigating financial and procurement practices dating back to before July 2016.

Perciavalle’s resignation was announced about two years after a law enforcement raid at the offices of Austal USA. No charges were announced.

MARRIOTT-CEO

Marriott names Anthony Capuano new CEO, president

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Marriott International has named a new CEO and a new president, a little more than a week after its former leader died of cancer.

Marriott said Anthony “Tony” Capuano has been appointed CEO. Capuano joined the hotel company in 1995 and most recently served as group president of global development, design and operations services. Stephanie Linnartz will serve as Marriott’s president.

Marriott’s former President and CEO Arne Sorenson died on Feb. 15, two years after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

RISING VEHICLE PRICES

New or used? Either way, price hikes squeeze US auto buyers

FENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The viral pandemic has triggered a cascade of price hikes throughout America’s auto industry — a surge that has made both new and used vehicles unaffordable for many.

Prices of new vehicles far outpaced overall consumer inflation over the past year. In response, many buyers who were priced out of that market turned to used vehicles. Yet their demand proved so potent that used-vehicle prices soared even more than new ones did.

The price of an average new vehicle jumped 6% to a record $40,578 between January of last year and December, according to data from Edmunds.com. The average price of a used vehicle surged nearly 14% to over $23,000.

MACY’S-RESULTS

Macy’s closes out a tough year with hope for 2021

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s is looking ahead to a year of recovery and rebuilding from the pandemic as the iconic department store chain offered annual forecasts that handily beat Wall Street forecasts.

Driving that optimism is Macy’s push to accelerate online sales, while focusing on physical stores at top-tier malls and modernizing its supplier network to speed up deliveries. As a result, Macy’s believes annual sales will reach $20.75 billion this year, far exceeding the roughly $17 billion that Wall Street had been projecting.

Macy’s also expects adjusted earnings per share in the range of 40 cents to 90 cents for the year, much better than the $2.92 loss that analysts forecast, according to FactSet.

HOME DEPOT-RESULTS

In year of pandemic, Home Depot became supplier to millions

UNDATED (AP) — The Home Depot’s fiscal fourth-quarter sales surged 25% as the home improvement chain continues to meet the demands of consumers stuck at home and a resilient housing market.

The chain also boosted its quarterly dividend 10% to $1.65 per share. Revenue rose to $32.26 billion from $25.78 billion. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research forecast $30.66 billion.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer’s health, climbed 24.5%. In the U.S., the figure increased 25%.

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